Aetiology of donation-related health outcomes

This theme of research aims to identify and understand molecular and biological determinants of potential adverse health consequences of blood donation. The rationale is to determine the causal health consequences of blood donation (and the risk factors for these health outcomes) to lay foundations for novel prevention strategies. These aims will be achieved through analysis of INTERVAL study data, genetic studies of causality (“Mendelian randomisation”) and cohort studies enabled by linkage of donor records to health outcomes data in electronic records. Theme 2 will feed into Theme 3 by identifying risk factors to be used as biomarkers in personalising donation strategies to maximise donor health and the blood supply.

Results from the COMPARE study, which is researching different methods for measuring haemoglobin (iron) levels in blood, will help inform Theme 2.

Work currently being undertaken by colleagues at the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford and the Wellcome Sanger Institute:

  • Discovery study on vasovagal (fainting) reactions
  • Discovery analyses on donors able to donate more frequently
  • The role of iron in restless legs syndrome
  • Genome-wide association study on iron phenotypes

Theme 2 is led by Dr Emanuele Di Angelantonio, University of Cambridge.


Emanuele Di Angelantonio
Philippe Gilchrist
Elias Allara







Research staff:

  • Dr Steven Bell
  • Dr Philippe Gilchrist


  • Elias Allara



Large-scale clinical studies (INTERVAL and COMPARE), plus contributions from collaborators, have yielded an enormous amount of data that can be mined and linked to electronic health records. This will enable investigators to better understand what is happening in the body post-blood donation, which could inform how often a donor should give blood. This information may improve the donor’s experience. In addition, it may reduce the number of deferrals (temporary rejection from giving further donations), which can de-motivate individuals from future donations and directly or indirectly increase the cost of collecting blood.